Your sweet little princess probably received lots of cute teddies and other soft toys as gifts in those first few weeks, and you may be wondering, when can baby sleep with a stuffed animal?
It’s very possible that you have fond memories of a favorite soft toy or stuffed animal from your own childhood. What exactly was it about that little pink teddy, given by Great Aunt Berta, that you loved so much?
You may remember loving the feeling of it up against your face as you were falling asleep at night. You may also remember dragging it with you wherever you went. You possibly also recall the utter heartbreak when Bertie, as you affectionately named it, got lost more than once.
Why Should A Baby Sleep with a Stuffed Animal?
If your little one has a favorite lovey that she associates with sleep, it can be a very useful tool in establishing good sleeping habits.
Bonding with a stuffed animal can give a baby a soothing and calming sense of security. The familiarity of her favorite soft toy will help to minimize stress in your baby. It is also beneficial in dealing with separation anxiety when Mommy has to leave Sweetie Pie with a caregiver or babysitter.
When Can Baby Sleep With A Stuffed Animal?
I like to follow the recommendation of The American Academy of Pediatrics for when a baby can sleep with a stuffed animal. If a very small baby sleeps with anything other than a pacifier in the crib, it increases the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
The safest practice is to introduce a stuffed animal as a sleeping partner only once your baby is able to roll over in both directions with ease, sit up quickly on her own, and move around in her crib. This is usually between 8-12 months.
Is It Safe For Baby To Sleep With A Stuffed Animal?
If a soft toy or stuffed animal covers your baby’s mouth and nose, it can lead to suffocation. If it is placed in the crib of a very small baby, it can easily become wedged between the baby’s face and the mattress or the side of the crib.
For the same reason, I advise not using a blanket or pillow or crib bumpers in a small baby’s crib. The baby needs to be old enough and strong enough to be able to move away if her mouth and nose are covered and she cannot breathe.
There have been many tragic cases reported of babies who have died as a result of suffocation, caused by a soft toy or a blanket. A crib bumper is particularly dangerous because it not only poses a risk of suffocation but also strangulation if the baby becomes entangled in it.
When you give your baby a stuffed animal to cuddle, choose one that does not have any small pieces, such as eyes or buttons, that could come loose and fall off. Babies are curious little creatures who love to put strange objects in their mouths, and a baby could easily choke on something like a button.
The stuffed animal should not have any ribbons, such as a collar. Ribbons not only pose a danger of strangulation, or choking if swallowed, but are also dangerous if they become wound tightly around a tiny finger or toe, cutting off circulation.
If your baby has a favorite stuffed animal, something that many Moms do not think about is the importance of checking the seams regularly. If the stitching starts to come loose and a hole develops, your baby could easily pull out some of the stuffing and put it in her mouth. If you spot a hole developing, it is time to take out your needle and thread and sew it up tightly.
How Do You Introduce A Stuffed Animal For Baby To Sleep With?
Once you have decided that now is the time when your baby can sleep with a stuffed animal, there are a few helpful strategies that you can employ to make the stuffed animal become your little one’s favorite ‘lovey’.
The most essential tip I can give you is to have more than one of the same chosen soft toy. You need to be able to wash it regularly, and you also need a back-up in case it gets lost. The last thing you want is a night of desperate, hysterical crying because the lovey is missing.
If you have a duplicate, you can alternate the two on a weekly basis. This will give them a chance to become equally ‘worn in’, and your baby will not know the difference between them. You will then be able to keep the stuffed animal fresh and clean, and if one goes off on an adventure, your baby will not be distraught.
Babies get their sense of security from Mommy. They have a very highly developed sense of smell. Studies have shown that a baby will be able to identify his mother by smell alone. So if you want your baby to take to a stuffed animal, make it smell like you before introducing it to your baby.
Either sleep cuddling the stuffed animal for a night, or tuck it into your clothes and ‘wear’ it for a few hours. Avoid wearing any other fragrance, so that the soft toy can absorb only your body’s unique scent. Your baby will recognize that scent, and will immediately associate the toy with the security of having Mommy nearby.
Make the stuffed animal part of your baby’s bedtime routine. It should be something that she associates with bedtime and sleep, and should not be given for playtime during the day. As you are getting your little angel ready for sleep, either at night or for her daytime nap, give her the stuffed animal to cuddle.
If you follow these guidelines for when a baby can sleep with a stuffed animal, your baby should sleep peacefully every night.